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Leveraging 3D Printing at BOBST

Innovative Approach, Internal Collaboration, and Supplier Selection Propel the World’s Leading Packaging Machine Manufacturer Towards 3D Printing Success.

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Courtesy of BOBST

Top 3 Learnings

Why the world’s leading packaging machine manufacturer uses 3D Printing

BOBST Mex SA is one of the world’s leading suppliers of substrate processing, printing and converting equipment and services for the label, flexible packaging, folding carton and corrugated board industries. Founded in 1890 by Joseph Bobst in Lausanne, Switzerland, BOBST has a presence in more than 50 countries, runs 19 production facilities in 11 countries and employs more than 5 800 people around the world.

3D Printing Trainingat BOBST
EXPERTFOLD 110 folder-gluer machine. Image courtesy of BOBST

Leading innovation” is one of the main strategic goals for BOBST. As a leader in innovation BOBST is constantly adopting new technologies. 3D Printing became one of those technologies when the company took a strategic approach to implement the technology in 2018. 3D Printing enables BOBST to increase machine efficiency and increase customer service due to individual solutions and fast spare part reaction time.

Ensuring customer satisfaction with individual product solutions

3D-Printed tank for folder-gluer machine on the base plate. Image courtesy of BOBST

One of the many 3D Printing success stories at BOBST was a customized part for an Asian customer, who had acquired an EXPERTFOLD 110 folder-gluer machine and decided to enhance the machine’s gluing capacity with an additional tank after the delivery of the machine. The part had to be customized and traditional manufacturing would have been both complicated and delivery time would have taken too long. It was therefore decided that the part should be manufactured using 3D Printing. It took 3 weeks from decision to use 3D Printing to delivery of the part for installation on the machine.

We are efficiently building our additive manufacturing capabilities at BOBST. Innovation is at our heart and the new technologies and methods are bringing benefits to our customers, and additive manufacturing are also increasing our R&D and Supply chain capacity

The path to successful AM implementation is not always straight forward

The initiative to investigate and utilize the potential of 3D Printing came straight from the CEOs office in 2018. However, the implementation is not always as straight forward as the industry likes to suggest. A main hurdle for such a groundbreaking new technology is the design mindset of the engineering teams. BOBST is an established company with a history for extremely reliable high-end processing machines, where a new manufacturing technology is not easily accepted. Material properties and cost per part proved to be the main hurdles.

Material properties must be proven internally

It turns out that no one can take the shortcut and simply accept external standards or supplier data sheets. To achieve internal acceptance of a manufacturing technology, no matter if polymer of metal, one has to prove that the material properties fulfil the expected values. This is not a one-time effort, but parts rather need to leave the shop floor in a constant quality. In the best case, internal use cases have to undergo a complete in-build test.

Learning 1

Design mindset towards function first

3D Printing allows for new functionalities and optimized designs. One of the basic rules is that material is being deposited only where it is needed. This mindset is common for casting applications, however in a typical industrial machine company, casting is not a standard process. The mindset of most engineers is driven by machining capabilities, where material is being removed rather than added. This however means that at BOBST, engineers had to be actively learn how to design new applications bottom up, starting with the actual functionality of the application in mind. The BOBST team was successful with on-site workshops where both external and internal trainers were teaching 3D Printing fundamentals followed by a hands-on engineering workshop on specific parts. In 2022, the company did 4 of those workshops at international BOBST sites with every meeting leading to 3-4 high potential applications.

3D Printing Training BOBST Workshop
3D Printing training at BOBST. Image courtesy of BOBST

Learning 2

Internal communications with proprietary use cases

Acceptance is driven by communication. This is true both internally towards employees and externally towards customers. Nothing works better to spread the word about the advantages of 3D Printing than successful, proprietary use cases. The engineers at BOBST quickly realized the value that 3D Printing can bring to the company and its customers. The main tool is the intranet, where co-workers can keep track of the activities and success stories. Another important communication channel comes from our customer visits. The 3D Printing facility within BOBST is a major stop for all customers.

Suppliers have a different focus regarding quality and price

While BOBST invested in their own machines for metal and polymer 3D printing early on, they were continuously working with external suppliers for selected applications. The focus was was initially on suppliers delivering high-quality parts. This strong focus on quality also meant that parts came at a high price. Over the years, additional suppliers with a stronger focus on costs have been onboarded, which ultimately leads to more successful business cases. Suppliers are now selected from a bigger pool based on specific application requirements.

Learning 3

Key take aways

3D Printing at BOBST is now a key technology to enable custom solutions at short reaction times. It took several years and even after 5 years of implementation, the full potential of 3D Printing is yet to be unlocked. At BOBST, 3 key learnings where identified that can help industrial companies to successfully implement the technology:

Further success stories

Training

Advance your 3D Printing success story

Would you like to further advance your 3D Printing success story?  We learned that training a broad number of employees is key to increase the usage of 3D Printing in a company and to successfully launch new applications.

You can try out the AM Fundamentals course of the AMPOWER Academy free of charge

Additive Manufacturing Training AM Fundamentals

AM Fundamentals Trial

Understand the most important topics to get started with Additive Manufacturing

Sinter-based AM technologies and process chain

Sinter-based AM - a technology overview

Many different printing technologies - one sintering process

The sinter-based AM (SBAM) technologies have, as the name suggests, the sintering process in common. In this process, the printed green part is consolidated into a dense part and receives its final properties. The green part can be printed in advance using different technologies.They all have in common that metal powder is bound to the desired shape by a binder. The best-known printing technologies include Binder Jetting and Filament Material Extrusion.

In this section, you learn everything about the sinter-based AM  process chain and get an overview of the different printing technologies.

Goal and structure of this course

This course is aimed at engineers, designers and other professionals that are working closely with sinter-based AM technologies. The goal is to cover the most important aspects that will enable engineers and designers to fully grasp the capabilities and technical limitations of the printing technologies and the sintering process to succeed in technology selection and part design. Besides going through the course from the beginning until the end, this course can also act as a constant source of knowledge while working on AM projects. 

The course is structured into the following sections.

This section will start with an overview of the sinter-based AM process chain and its printing technologies, followed by a technology deep dive into the most important aspects of the BJT technology, followed by a closer look at the debinding and sintering step also including sintering simulation .

The second section will provide an overview of the different materials that are available as well as part characteristics that can be achieved with the BJT process and typical methods for quality assurance. Finally, several common defects in the BJT process are presented. 

The last section will act as a guideline for designers. Besides generally describing the process when designing for Additive Manufacturing, actionable restrictions and guidelines for the BJT process are provided. The final section will present several design examples from different industries. 

What you will find in this section

Sinter-based AM process chain

From digital model to finished part

Data preparation

Simulation to compensate the deformation during the sintering step, nesting of parts and definition of printing parameters

Printing

Through various printing processes, different feedstocks such as metal powders, filaments, pellets or dispersions are processed into green parts

Unpacking

Unpacking of fragile green parts needs to be done carefully and is typically a manual process.

Debinding

Debinding describes the process of removing the binder which results in a brown part

Sintering

To reach the structural integrity of a metal part, a sinter process is required. The powder particles fuse together to a coherent, solid structure via a mass transport that occurs at the atomic scale driven via diffusional forces.

The brown part shrinks ~13-21 % in each direction.

The process chain of sinter-based technologies differs from other AM Technologies. Especially the post-printing processes (debinding and sintering) are crucial to achieve the intended mechanical properties.

Technology principle

How does Binder Jetting work?

Binder Jetting is a powder based Additive Manufacturing technology in which a liquid polymer binder is selectively deposited onto the powder bed binding the metal particles and forming a green body.

The metal powder is applied to a build platform in a typical layer thickness of 40 µm to 100 µm. Subsequently a modified 2D print head apply a binder selectively onto the powder bed. Depending on machine technology a hardening or curing process of the binder is performed in parallel for each layer and/or at the end of the whole build. During the in-situ curing process a heat source is used to solidify the binder and form a solid polymer – metal powder composite.

Working Principle of Binder Jetting

Afterwards the build platform moves downward by the amount of one layer thickness and a new layer of powder is applied. Again, the liquid binder is deposited and hardened in the required regions of the next layer to form the green body. This process is repeated until the complete part is printed. After the complete printing process is finished the parts have to be removed from the “powder cake” meaning the surrounding loose but densified powder. To improve the removal of the excess powder from the green body often brushes or a blasting gun with air pressure are used.

To create a dense metal part the 3D printed green body has to be post-processed in a debinding and sintering process. Similar to the metal injection molding process BJT parts are placed in a high temperature furnace, where the binder is burnt out and the remaining metal particles are sintered together. The sintering results in densification of the 3D printed green body to a metal part with high densities of 97 % to 99,5%, dependent of the material.

Printing Technologies

Metal Binder Jetting

Binder Jetting is a powder based Additive Manufacturing technology in which a liquid polymer binder is selectively deposited onto the powder bed binding the metal particles and forming a green body.

The metal powder is applied to a build platform in a typical layer thickness of 40 µm to 100 µm. Subsequently a modified 2D print head apply a binder selectively onto the powder bed. Depending on machine technology a hardening or curing process of the binder is performed in parallel for each layer and/or at the end of the whole build. During the in-situ curing process a heat source is used to solidify the binder and form a solid polymer – metal powder composite.

Working Principle of Binder Jetting

Material Extrusion

Binder Jetting is a powder based Additive Manufacturing technology in which a liquid polymer binder is selectively deposited onto the powder bed binding the metal particles and forming a green body.

The metal powder is applied to a build platform in a typical layer thickness of 40 µm to 100 µm. Subsequently a modified 2D print head apply a binder selectively onto the powder bed. Depending on machine technology a hardening or curing process of the binder is performed in parallel for each layer and/or at the end of the whole build. During the in-situ curing process a heat source is used to solidify the binder and form a solid polymer – metal powder composite.

Working Principle of Binder Jetting

Mold Slurry Deposition

Binder Jetting is a powder based Additive Manufacturing technology in which a liquid polymer binder is selectively deposited onto the powder bed binding the metal particles and forming a green body.

The metal powder is applied to a build platform in a typical layer thickness of 40 µm to 100 µm. Subsequently a modified 2D print head apply a binder selectively onto the powder bed. Depending on machine technology a hardening or curing process of the binder is performed in parallel for each layer and/or at the end of the whole build. During the in-situ curing process a heat source is used to solidify the binder and form a solid polymer – metal powder composite.

Working Principle of Binder Jetting

Metal Selective Laser Sintering

Binder Jetting is a powder based Additive Manufacturing technology in which a liquid polymer binder is selectively deposited onto the powder bed binding the metal particles and forming a green body.

The metal powder is applied to a build platform in a typical layer thickness of 40 µm to 100 µm. Subsequently a modified 2D print head apply a binder selectively onto the powder bed. Depending on machine technology a hardening or curing process of the binder is performed in parallel for each layer and/or at the end of the whole build. During the in-situ curing process a heat source is used to solidify the binder and form a solid polymer – metal powder composite.

Working Principle of Binder Jetting